I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Friday, the co-founder and director of the American Black Film Festival earlier this morning, in a enlightening conversation; the topic of black film festivals is almost always something of a tinderbox, with criticism after criticism being leveled at these festivals from filmmakers and audiences alike, whether fairly or not.
So, it only made sense that, after having just returned from the festival (considered by many to be the most prominent of its kind in the land) a couple of days ago, an honest conversation with Mr Friday was necessary.
And thankfully, he obliged! We spoke for over 30 minutes over the phone, and he was certainly vocal about his position, but also open. I'm sure this isn't the first time he's had to consider the kinds of questions I asked.
But I'm still putting my festival wrap-up piece together; I just needed to get this interview with Jeff so that I penned my finale armed with vital info I didn't have before. And once I've put it all together, it'll be posted here - before the end of this week, so look out for it.
In the meantime, as is the usual at the close of each festival, an awards celebration bookended the 4-day event, which I attended. I already posted 1 or two related items - notably the Keenen Ivory Wayans acceptance speech. But here are the rest of this year's ABFF Honors Award winners:
• HBO® Short Film Competition – FIG, written by Alex George Pickering and directed by Ryan Coogler. Award presented by Lucinda Martinez of HBO and Olivia Smashum. Grand prize of $20,000.
• Best Documentary, presented by CNN - BROWN BABIES, directed by Regina Griffin. Award presented by Janet Rolle, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer of CNN Worldwide and Actor Dennis White. Grand prize of $5,000.
• Grey Goose “Rising Icon” Award – Actress Naturi Naughton. Award presented by Chauncey Hamlett, Grey Goose Brand Manager and Actress Mari Marrow.
• The Star Project Winners, presented by NBC Universal - Sheaun McKinney of Los Angeles and Tiffany D. Hobbs of Dallas. Award presented by Kendra Carter, Director of Talent Diversity Initiatives, NBCUniversal Casting; Debra Langford, VP of Inclusion and Business Diversity, NBCUniversal; and Actor Mekhi Phifer. Grand prize winner to receive walk-on role on NBC’s daytime drama “Day of Our Lives.”
• The gmc Television Network Screenplay Competition - David Martyn Conley for RAISING IZZIE. Award presented by Singer Eric Benet. Grand prize of $5,000.
Grand Jury Prizes:
• Best Screenplay presented by Team Sizzle Worldwide – BLACK GOLD, directed by Jeta Amata. Award presented by Team Sizzle Worldwide CEO Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens and Actress Elise Neal. Grand prize of $5,000.
• Best Actor, presented by Gold Peak Tea (tie) - Lonyo Engele for his role as David Brown in DAVID IS DYING and Persia White for her role as Trenyce in DYSFUNCTIONAL FRIENDS. Award presented by Mark Pitts, VP and General Manager of Coffee and Tea for Coca-Cola and Actress Terri J. Vaughn. Grand prize of $5,000.
• Best Director, presented by Cadillac - Stephen Lloyd Jackson for DAVID IS DYING. Award presented by Dave Fitzwater, Regional Sales & Marketing Manager SE Region at General Motors and Actor Laz Alonso. Grand prize of $5,000.
• Best Film, presented by Wells Fargo - THE TESTED, directed by Russell Constanzo. Award presented by Alisa Joseph, VP of Marketing & Communications and Actress Jaszmine Leiws. Grand prize of $5,000.